Paul’s antidote to Empire: A peaceable reading of Romans (part 1; 1:1-17) [Peaceable Romans #8]

Ted Grimsrud—February 28, 2022

I have long believed that the Apostle Paul, and especially his letter to Jesus followers in Rome, is a friend to peacemakers, not a thorn in our flesh. And I have often argued with various friends over the years who don’t agree. The issue, in essence, has been whether Paul is a friend or enemy for peace-oriented Christians. I’d say “friend!”; they’d say “enemy!” And off we’d go.

Part of the problem for me has been that many of Paul’s biggest supporters have not been people I necessarily would want to be allied with—those who oppose welcoming gays into the church, those who support patriotic wars, those who teach a gospel of human depravity and the need for an individualistic kind of personal conversion (what I was taught years ago as the “Romans road to salvation”). Paul’s most famous piece of writing, his letter to the Romans, contains what are surely two of the most hurtful, destructive passages in all of the Bible. I’m thinking of the part of chapter one that seems to condemn gays and lesbians. These verses are almost always cited when Bible-believers speak against Christians taking a welcoming stance. And I’m thinking of the verses in chapter 13 that begin, “let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” I know from my research that Romans 13 is by far the most important part of the Bible for those who argue against pacifism and in favor of “necessary” war.

Paul’s antidote to Empire

Yet, still, I want to say, to paraphrase Paul’s own words: “I am not ashamed of the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Romans.” I want to explain why in a series of blog posts that will work through the letter. I will show that the typical uses of Romans to support hostility toward gays and to support going to war are misuses. More than refuting misuses of Romans, though, I want to show how Romans can be a powerful resource for peace in our broken world. I want to show how Paul gives us an “antidote to Empire.” Paul presents a story that is meant to subvert, counter, even overturn the story the Roman Empire told about what matters most in life. Sadly, we need this subversion, countering, and overturning of the story of Empire as much today as ever.

Continue reading “Paul’s antidote to Empire: A peaceable reading of Romans (part 1; 1:1-17) [Peaceable Romans #8]”

The politics of Paul and the way of Jesus, part 2 (Romans 13) [Peaceable Romans #7]  

Ted Grimsrud—February 22, 2022

The Apostle Paul was a follower of Jesus. And his social views actually complement Jesus’s rather than stand in tension with them, contrary to how many Christians have believed. Part 1 of this two-part series of posts sketches a summary of key elements of Paul’s views, leaving for this second part a more detailed look at the infamous passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans that, one could say, has launched many ships and other weapons of war. Romans 13, specifically 13:1-7, often serves as a counter-testimony in the Christian tradition to the idea that Paul may have taught nonviolent resistance to the Roman Empire. As well, Romans 13 is often seen to go against the idea that Paul understood Jesus’s peaceable way as normative for Christian social ethics.

Setting the context for Romans 13:1-7

However, I will show that those verses actually are fully compatible with the peaceable way of Jesus. Our interpretation of Romans 13:1-7 should begin with reading these verses in light of their broader biblical context. From Egypt in Genesis and Exodus, then Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and down to Rome in the book of Revelation, the Bible shows empires rebelling against God and hindering the healing vocation of God’s people. The entire Bible could appropriately be read as a manual on how people who follow Torah in seeking to love God and neighbor negotiate the dynamics of hostility, domination, idolatry, and violence that almost without exception characterize the world’s empires.

Romans 13:1-7 stands in this general biblical context of antipathy toward the empires. If we take this context seriously, we will turn to these Romans verses assuming that their concern is something like this: given the fallenness of Rome, how might we live within this empire as people committed uncompromisingly to love of neighbor? Paul has no illusions about Rome being in a positive sense a direct servant of God. Paul, of course, was well aware that the Roman Empire had unjustly executed Jesus himself. As evil as the they might be, though, we know from biblical stories that God nonetheless can and does use the corrupt nations for God’s purposes—nations that also remain under God’s judgment.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul surely had this biblical sensibility in mind as he addresses Jesus followers in the capital city of the world’s great superpower—the entity that had executed Jesus. Paul begins with a focus on the perennial problem related to empires—idolatry. He discusses two major strains of idolatry in chapters 1–3: (1) the Empire and its injustices that demand the highest loyalty and (religious) devotion and (2) a legalistic approach to Torah that leads to its own kind of violence (witness Paul’s own death-dealing zealotry). Continue reading “The politics of Paul and the way of Jesus, part 2 (Romans 13) [Peaceable Romans #7]  “

The politics of Paul and the way of Jesus, part 1 [Peaceable Romans #6]

Ted Grimsrud—February 18, 2022

Christians have tended to hold Jesus and Paul in tension. On the one side, Christians of a more liberal persuasion have tended to take their cues from Jesus and see Paul as a supporter of the status quo. Others wouldn’t so much say there is a tension as assume (often without realizing it) that Jesus is not particularly relevant for their social ethics. His message is often seen to focus on personal ethics and the ideals of our future in heaven. For such conservatives, Paul teaches us more relevant political principles, especially about obeying the governing authorities and respecting the state’s police function.

Reasons not to dismiss Paul’s politics

Now, I definitely am on the Jesus-as-central side. Some years ago, I read a wide variety of Christian thinkers who reject pacifism. I was struck with how every single one of them—from evangelicals to Catholics to theological liberals—cited Romans 13 as a key biblical text that supported their anti-pacifist stance. In face of that consensus, I can understand why a more peace-oriented Christian might want to be done with Paul.

However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to take the easy way out with Paul. First of all, I believe that the pro-war reading of Romans 13 is a bad interpretation. If we read those verses carefully, I believe we will realize that they do not support the standard account—even if that standard account is long-lived and widely affirmed. Just on the grounds of accuracy, then, Paul should not be seen as the advocate par excellence of Christian submission to the state.

Second, the message of the Bible’s story as a whole contradicts the assumption that Christians should issue the state a moral blank check and simply “submit to the state.” Christians generally have practiced that kind of submission going back to Augustine. But such an embrace was highly ironic (and tragic) given the strong biblical emphasis in opposition to empires going back to the story of the exodus. Especially striking is how Augustine give the Roman Empire the moral authority to discern when to involve Christians in war. This flies in the face of the New Testament: That same Roman Empire executed Jesus and that same Roman Empire was linked with Satan in the book of Revelation. So, it is strange that a short, cryptic passage from Paul’s writing would take precedence over the negative overall biblical message about the state.

Third, when we simply grant validity to the Paul-as-pro-submission-to-the-state position without argument we lose the main avenue for possibly persuading Christians not to grant such a blank check. This avenue is to ground one’s counterargument in the Bible. If we don’t question that interpretation of Romans 13, then the by far most important biblical basis for Christian acceptance of warism will remain in place—and it becomes difficult to imagine an effective way to persuade Christians not to support for the warring state.

So, I think there are good reasons to examine Paul’s writings more closely, with an openness that he might actually turn out to be much closer to Jesus in thought than has normally been recognized. I believe that, together, Jesus and Paul do provide a political perspective that is relevant in our world. Not only relevant, but I would argue that together Jesus and Paul give us essential guidance for creative and transformative political engagement. Continue reading “The politics of Paul and the way of Jesus, part 1 [Peaceable Romans #6]”

Paul’s critique of idolatry, part 3 — Liberation from idolatry [Peaceable Romans #5]

Ted Grimsrud—January 31, 2022

As we have seen in the previous two blog posts in this three-part series, Paul begins his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome with a two-part analysis of the dynamics of idolatry—first, political idolatry and then religious idolatry. He concludes that “all are under the power of sin” (Romans 3:9)—that is, both types of idolatry keep us from living the free and fruitful lives God intends for us. Paul’s intent, though, is not emphasizing the total depravity of humankind. Rather, he sets up the problem in order to provide a solution—liberation for sinners.

He states this solution beginning at 3:21. His statement is dense and open to different interpretations. I believe that if we read Paul in light of Jesus’s life and teaching and if we assume that Paul’s agenda is to empower his readers to live lives of service and healing justice, we will be best suited to discern the meaning of his theologically and ethically potent emphases in 3:21-31. Of course, fully to understand the content and implications of what he writes in those verses, we will need to analyze the chapters that follow in Romans—a task for future blog posts.

The true revelation of Jesus as savior (liberator)

Our starting point in analyzing Romans 3 should be a recognition that Paul’s theology here was decisively shaped by his own experience before he met Jesus. When Saul the Pharisee made “works of the law” central (i.e., when he focused on the boundary markers that protected the core of religious identity that for him found expression in strict adherence to rituals of separation [such as circumcision and dietary restrictions]), he had zealously devoted himself to violent persecution of the followers of Jesus. After he met Jesus, Saul renamed as Paul realized with a shock that instead of serving God, he had been serving an idol—and was guilty of blasphemy rather than faithfully serving God. So, Paul himself when he was Saul the Pharisee was stuck right in the middle of idolatry that enslaved him under the power of sin. In his trust in works of the law, he himself had been enslaved. He had been part of the dynamic of slavery to idols that concludes the negative part of his argument at 3:20.

So, when we turn to the next step in the argument, we remember that it is a personal testimony for Paul. He affirms that God’s healing justice, God’s transformative love, has been made known to humanity (and, specifically, to Paul himself) “apart from the law” (3:21). Paul’s response to the problem of idolatry flows from his own liberation. This is how the problem is solved: “Now, apart from the law, the justice of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the justice of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe” (3:21-22).

Continue reading “Paul’s critique of idolatry, part 3 — Liberation from idolatry [Peaceable Romans #5]”

Paul’s critique of idolatry, part 2 – The religious temptation [Peaceable Romans #4]

Ted Grimsrud—January 24, 2022

One of the ways that the Bible is most helpful for peacemakers is in its critique of idolatry. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans especially offers an analysis of the dynamics where lack of gratitude to the Creator leads to trusting in created things rather than in the Creator —things such as human political and human religious structures. Such trust feeds a spiral of injustice and violence as seen in the social world of the Roman Empire—and other empires since. We also see a legacy of injustice and violence in religious communities.

In the first of three blog posts, “Paul’s critique of idolatry, part 1 – The political temptation,” I looked at Paul’s critique of the Empire’s idolatrous ways in Romans 1, suggesting that this critique has an on-going validity. However, the first chapter of Romans needs to be read in conjunction with Romans 2, where Paul offers an analysis and critique of a more subtle kind of idolatry—idols probably closer to home for his readers then and now.

Idolatry II: Religious boundary maintenance

Paul’s critique of Empire-idolatry has its own validity and importance. However, it should not be read in isolation from what follows in Romans. Paul combines his Empire-idolatry critique with a critique of the way people in the covenant community embrace a different kind of idolatry. Following pioneering Pauline scholar James Dunn, I will use the term “works of the law” for what Paul criticizes—in distinction from the law understood as the original revelation of Torah through Moses, something that Paul embraces. Paul’s lack of precision in his use of the term “law” makes it difficult to perceive the nuances of his argument.

Dunn sees Paul’s use of the term “works of the law” in Galatians 2:16 (“We know that a person is justified, not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ”) as helpful for helping us distinguish between Paul’s critique of how the law was being understood among his opponents in the churches and Paul’s strong affirmation of the continuing validity of the law (Romans 13:8-10: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’”).

In his groundbreaking essay from the early 1980s, “The new perspective on Paul,” Dunn summarizes his core point: “Paul’s objection is not to ritual law, but to exclusivist or particularist attitudes which came to expression in and are reinforced by certain rituals. Not the rituals as such, but the attitude behind them, expressed typically as a ‘boasting’ in works of the law (Rom 2:17-23; 3:27ff).” Behind Paul’s critique here is his own earlier use of works of the law as boundary markers. He protected the “true faith” with extreme violence. Paul as Saul the Pharisee, before he met Jesus, had made an idol of works of the law in a way that made him guilty of the same kind of death-dealing injustice as the leaders of the Roman Empire in his harsh persecution of Jesus’s followers.

Continue reading “Paul’s critique of idolatry, part 2 – The religious temptation [Peaceable Romans #4]”

Paul’s critique of idolatry, part 1 – The political temptation [Peaceable Romans #3]

Ted Grimsrud—January 17, 2022

I believe that one of the ways the stories and teachings of the Bible speak to our world today is in how they criticize the dynamics of idolatry. The biblical stories often portray violence and injustice having roots in idolatry. Trusting in things other than the creator God who made all human beings in the divine image leads to a diminishment of the value of some human beings—a prerequisite for injustice and violence. Torah, the prophets, and Jesus all emphasize the centrality of loving the neighbor as part of what it means to love God above all else.

I think that the writings of Paul the apostle are also an important part of the critique of idolatry and the envisioning of peaceable life. This is the first of a three-part series of posts on Paul’s critique of idolatry. Especially the book of Romans emphasizes idolatry and how to overcome it. Noting the importance of idolatry in Paul’s thought helps us recognize how closely connected Paul was with Jesus and the Old Testament prophets. All too often, Christian theology has tended to see more discontinuity between Paul and his predecessors than is warranted—or helpful.

The struggle against idols characterizes the biblical story from the concern with “graven images” in the Ten Commandments down to the blasphemies of the Beast in Revelation. Certainly, at times the battle against idols itself crosses the line into violence and injustice. However, for my purposes here I will assume that those accounts stand over against the overall biblical story. When anti-idolatry takes the form of violence, a new idolatry has taken its place. Our challenge is to seek to overcome evil without becoming evil ourselves.

The critique of idolatry

We find in the biblical critique of idolatry perspectives that are important, even essential for responding to the problems of violence in our world today. If we use violence as our criterion, we could say that whenever human beings justify violence against other human beings, they give ultimate loyalty to some entity (or “idol”) other than the God of Jesus Christ. It could well be that forces that underwrite violence today—loyalty to warring nations, labeling those outside our religious or ethnic circle as less than fully human, placing a higher priority on gathering wealth than on community wellbeing—are contemporary versions of the idolatrous dynamics that biblical prophets condemn.

Continue reading “Paul’s critique of idolatry, part 1 – The political temptation [Peaceable Romans #3]”

Reading Paul in light of Old Testament social conflict [Peaceable Romans #2]

Ted Grimsrud—January 10, 2022

The more I read what scholars have to say about the writings of Paul, the more I feel like they miss important elements of Paul’s thought that might speak to us today. I think of Paul as a biblical prophet alongside the great Old Testament prophets, Jesus himself, and John of Patmos who wrote Revelation. As such, I think Paul is a great witness to the message of shalom that I associate with the prophets and with Jesus.

However, the Paul of Christian biblical scholars seems more like a teacher of a new religion, one centered on beliefs about Jesus’s death and resurrection and on escaping the failures of the ancient Hebrews. Such a Paul has little to say against domination and power politics and little to say about key issues of social justice such as wealth, social power, warism, and systemic prejudice. That is, the Paul of the Christian biblical scholar seems cut off from the OT portrayal of Torah, the insights of the prophets, and even the life and teaching of Jesus.

In raising this critique here, though, I am not intending to focus on recent Christian scholarship (at least not yet). Rather, I want simply to raise a few questions about how we might approach Paul in ways that are different from the standard approaches and that have promise to be more relevant for our current world healing concerns. I like the idea of reading Paul (for right now, I will focus on Romans) in the context of the Bible as a whole, where we keep the Big Story plot line from the Old Testament in mind and where, especially, we read Paul in light of the life and teaching of Jesus.

Continue reading “Reading Paul in light of Old Testament social conflict [Peaceable Romans #2]”

How the Advent/Christmas story challenges our faith

Ted Grimsrud—December 23, 2021

[This series of four meditations consider ways that the story told in the gospels of Jesus birth challenge our faith today. They started as Facebook posts.]

I imagine that most of us would agree that the story of Advent/Christmas stands in tension with the story of the Christian religion over the past 1,600 or so years. There is a vulnerability, a fragility, a weakness about the former that often seems to be lost in the self-representation and the practices of the latter.

It actually seems that the Christian religion has aligned itself with the Herods of the world more often than the marginalized and vulnerable people who welcomed Jesus’s birth. These are my Advent questions: Is the Christian religion in its manifestation in history ultimately compatible with the faith expressed in Mary’s song in Luke 1? Has the Christian religion truly made Jesus’s central teaching about love of neighbor its center?

I find it difficult to fault the numerous people I know and know of who in light of their commitment to love their neighbors and the wider world have decided to separate themselves from the Christian religion. [12.16.21]

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It’s been nearly 40 years since I first read Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Back then, I thought it was a wise and helpful book—and I still do. One of the ideas that stuck with me was his simple logical exercise: you have three propositions and only two of them can be true—(1) God is love, (2) God is all-powerful, (3) evil is real. If #1 and #2 are true, #3 can’t be; likewise if #1 and #3 are true or if #2 and #3 are true.

Kushner suggests (and I agree) that since God is love and since evil is real, then God is not all-powerful. Accepting that reality can actually be helpful in responding to the experience of bad things happening to good people.

Of course, these are issues that have been and continue to be endlessly debated and complexified. At the time I read the book, though, I found it a pretty persuasive way to affirm that God is love and that, in the face of the reality of evil, I could no longer believe that God is all-powerful (as in, in control of things).

Since then, I have only gotten stronger in my beliefs about these issues. I think the Advent/Christmas story makes the most sense in light of Kushner’s suggestion about power, evil, and love. This seems like a story about love in relation to evil, not a story of an all-powerful God.

One thought I have at this time is that the story of Jesus is not a story of certain outcomes, that everything will turn out just fine in the end. Rather, it is a story about method. We can’t know that healing will come. But we can know how it will come (if it is to come): Love, all the way down. [12.18.21]

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I have always been intrigued, and a bit frightened, by the Herod episode in Jesus’s birth story in Matthew’s gospel. It’s a pretty grim look at the violence that comes from insecure people exercising unrestrained power—and as such is an insightful commentary on politics down to our present time.

What I’ve come to realize is how the Bible from start to finish shows us that Herod is all too typical of people in power. That’s why Jesus taught that his followers should reject tyranny and refuse to valorize corrupt leaders. From the Pharaoh in Exodus down to the Beast in Revelation, “corrupt leaders” are seen more as the norm than the exception.

The thing is, the history of Christianity, at least since the 4th century, is a history of a great deal of comfortable submission to people in power and comfortable loyalty to nation-states that are inevitably governed by “corrupt leaders.” This is one more example how the Advent/Christmas story challenges religion as usual. To recognize Jesus as “king” (Matt 2:2) is to reject giving loyalty to “the kings of the earth.” [12.20.21]

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I have long been troubled by the link between Christian faith and the heritage of Christendom (Christian domination of Western societies). Some would say that I am a Christian mainly due to the fact that I’m an American of European descent—this equation is the result of the often violent and oppressive domination by Christendom of European and North American societies. A distressing dynamic, to be sure.

I do realize, though, that the main reason I find the domination by Christendom distressing is that my convictions are profoundly shaped by the life and teaching of Jesus. That is, there are convictions that come from the Christianity story itself that critique and oppose the Christendom-shaped domination system we live in.

I find the season’s revisiting of the Advent/Christmas story to be a helpful reminder of that story’s subversive message. As destructive as the influence of Christianity has been on the world, we also find in the tradition an antidote to domination—an antidote always worth pointing out. Jesus’s message is the *antithesis* of Christendom.

One stirring statement of this antithesis is found in Mary’s words about Jesus’s message: “The Lord has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53). How crazy is it that people who self-identify as Christians tend more than others in our country to bow down to the powerful on their thrones and to support an economic system that continually expands the wealth of the already rich. [12.23.21]

Why the cross of Christ is so hard to understand (part 2): A response to N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began [Rethinking salvation #4]

Ted Grimsrud—October 30, 2021

Back in August I read and interacted with an impressive book that sought to explain the meaning of Jesus’s death, Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus. The piece I ended up writing, “Why the cross of Christ is so hard to understand,” while offering quite a bit of praise for the book, ended up making some sharp criticisms. The core criticism, I think, was that she did not in the end actually help me very much to understand the death of Jesus. What I was looking for was an explanation of how rectification (her term) actually works and why Jesus’s crucifixion was such a necessary part of this work. I began the book being skeptical about her salvation theology and was not persuaded to change my opinion. I concluded: “All that Rutledge does in the end is simply repeat her on-going refrain, affirming that the crucifixion is necessary and profound and uniquely salvific but not explaining how it works to accomplish such a profound outcome” (nor, I might add, address serious problems that seem to arise from making the cross so central to salvation).

So, based on Rutledge’s book (one of my affirmations of it was that she seems to me to do an excellent job of recounting the core ideas of the mainstream Western Christian tradition [Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Barth]), my tentative conclusion was that “the cross is so hard to understand” because it has never been helpfully explained—other than the extreme Calvinist types who explain it in terms of a punitive, angry, and inherently violent God who viciously punishes Jesus and accepts that as a substitute for giving each of us the eternal punishment we deserve. Rutledge rightly rejects that “Penal Substitutionary Atonement” stance as being based on a nonbiblical view of a non-loving God. But she doesn’t really present us with a clearly explained alternative.

Rutledge’s book was published in 2015. A year later, a somewhat similar book was published, N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering Jesus’s Crucifixion (HarperOne, 2016). I don’t think Wright’s book got quite the same amount of acclaim—partly because it can kind of get lost in the avalanche of books he has published in recent years. Wright’s book does not have quite the dynamism of Rutledge’s, though as with all his books, it is well-written and relatively clear and straightforward. One way that Wright’s book looks the worse of the two is that, though Revolution is a quite substantial book, he does not overtly interact with other scholarship at all—either contemporary thinkers or the key players in the tradition. On the other hand, Wright gives us a lot more biblical analysis than Rutledge, including interaction with the Old Testament and the gospels, sections of the Bible she mostly ignored.

Rather than engage in a detailed comparison between the two books, though, what I will do in this post is focus on Wright’s book and specifically on the question whether he does a better job of helping us understand the cross of Christ. In a word, much of the disappointment I felt with Rutledge’s failure to help me was present after I finished Wright’s Revolution as well. I hope to post before long a third part to this series: “How the cross of Christ may be easily understood.” I will show how the “difficulties” in Rutledge and Wright are not necessary.

Continue reading “Why the cross of Christ is so hard to understand (part 2): A response to N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began [Rethinking salvation #4]”

What is Paul good for? [Rethinking salvation #3]

Ted Grimsrud—September 1, 2021

When I read Fleming Rutledge’s book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus, I was struck with how much she focused on the thought of Paul the Apostle (as she interpreted it) and how little she paid attention to the life and teaching of Jesus. She presented her theology of salvation, in my opinion, in a clear and persuasive way. And I would say that she quite definitely takes her place square in the middle of the Christian tradition—Catholic and Protestant—that may broadly be categorized as Augustinian. That tradition, going back to the fifth-century Bishop of Hippo (the second most influential Christian theologian ever, after Paul himself), has been by far the dominant shaper of Christian theology in the West. Rutledge echoes the theological line from runs from Augustine through Anselm, Luther, Calvin, and down to Barth.

Christian faith with Jesus at the center

I believe that Rutledge (and the others) present a problematic understanding of salvation, though. I think they distort the biblical story’s portrayal of salvation, on the one hand. And, on the other hand, I think that salvation theology, not coincidentally, has a problematic legacy in relation to the ethical practices of the Christian churches, especially in relation to the ethics of warism and violence more broadly. A big part of these problems, I would say, seems to follow from the interpretive move to marginalize the life and teaching of Jesus (and with that, the teachings of many of the Old Testament prophets and the message of Torah itself) and foreground a certain reading of the Apostle Paul.

So, I advocate for a reading of the New Testament and a theology of salvation that places Jesus’s life and teaching at the center. I see this as simply a straightforward way to read the New Testament since it clearly places the story of Jesus as the main event. Even if the mainstream tradition does not approach theology this way, I think it should have. It is more faithful to the Bible itself to do so. I also believe that such a Jesus-centered approach underwrites a more peace-oriented perspective. No longer would the message of Jesus be marginalized, and no longer would we affirm an understanding of the cross and salvation in general that marginalizes the call to embody Jesus’s way of life as central to the very definition of Christian faith.

In making this point about centering the story of Jesus and de-centering the theology of Paul, though, I am not advocating excluding Paul’s thought from our theology. To the contrary, I believe that the tradition Rutledge embodies actually misreads Paul himself. I think reading Paul in light of Jesus is the best way to appropriate the message that Paul actually intended to convey. To read the New Testament straightforwardly, I would say, is to take the ordering of the writings there seriously.

Continue reading “What is Paul good for? [Rethinking salvation #3]”